Impressions of the Russians in Training

The Russian women had their official podium training yesterday, and their gymnasts look about how you’d expect them to based on how they looked at the Russian Cup, on the fact that they’re without supreme leader Aliya Mustafina, and considering they have to deal with Valentina Rodionenko on a daily basis.

They will absolutely kill it on bars. I think this is where people began to worry, because a Mustafina, Viktoria Komova, and Daria Spiridonova lineup would’ve been epic; without Mustafina they’d have to throw up a not-so-Russian routine which would’ve been a bummer. But that’s not the case AT ALL, because Maria Paseka is suddenly a truly magical bar worker and I wouldn’t be surprised if she stole an event finals spot from one of her more likely teammates.

On vault, they should be able to put up an Amanar and two DTYs in finals, though will likely have two FTYs in qualifications if both Spiridonova and Maria Kharenkova do the all-around. And floor…well, they could use some work, but they didn’t have any falls, so that’s a plus. There are no videos of the ladies on beam, but they reportedly did an okay job, aside from Komova falling twice on her standing arabian.

One of the team’s best all-around contenders, Kharenkova, looked to be in nice form with a clean FTY and a bar routine that gets better each time we see it, though she could still use a little handstand work. Her toe full to Maloney to pak was very clean, however, and she took just a step on her full-out dismount.

Recent Russian Cup champion Spiridonova was a little short on her FTY and had some issues in floor, including a messy triple full, a cowboyed – but stuck – double tuck, and  a double pike that was landed short and skidded back. Her bars looked as lovely as ever, though, and she could absolutely defend her podium spot this year, though she did crash her dismount once in training and had another fluke fall at the Russian Cup, so it’ll be all about controlling these issues for her.

Her biggest competition on the event is probably Komova, who is back with an insane routine that features a Komova II to pak to van Leeuwen, a nearly straight layout Jaeger (she’s worked so hard in the past month there and it’s definitely showing), a toe full to piked Tkachev, and then a stuck full-out in training. She’s not doing floor this year, but showed a DTY on vault…it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible, either.

Another one with a fabulous bars routine who could potentially sneak in over one of her teammates is Paseka. Her. Routine. Is. Gorgeous. She connects literally everything, and in training hit a perfect toe full before continuing to her Maloney to clear hip full to Tkachev to pak to van Leeuwen. It was incredible, and then she stuck her double front cold.

She’s also a favorite for vault gold right now with an Amanar and a Cheng, the winning combination that got Hong Un Jong on the top of the podium over Simone Biles last year. Paseka’s Amanar is about a billion times better than before, though she still has a rough entry, with basically straddled legs. The landing looked good in training, however, and if she hits her Cheng the way she has been doing at home, she could be a major threat.

Paseka competes on floor as well, and showed an excellent 2.5 to front full and solid 1.5 to Rudi, but her double tuck is incredibly cowboyed. She should still be able to put up one of the better scores on this event if she hits, however. I’m just really excited to see her potentially be the team’s star this year after being kind of overshadowed during her entire elite career.

Seda Tutkhalyan is the new senior who’d like to get into the all-around final over Kharenkova and Spiridonova. Her difficulty overall is probably a little stronger, but I don’t know how I feel about her form and consistency. She took her Bhardwaj out on bars, going for a Maloney to pak (caught close with flexed feet), van Leeuwen, toe on to toe full to Tkachev, and a double front that she stumbled back before being caught by her coach. It’s not a high-scoring routine, but if she competes it a bit more calmly, she could do well with it in an all-around situation.

On floor, she was definitely short on her opening jump, landed her double layout out-of-bounds, and had a decent 2.5 to front pike to stag, though she could stand to have a bit more control on each individual element. She fell out of some turns and wasn’t very exact on leaps or jumps, there was a hop out of her 1.5 to front full, her wolf turn to full pirouette was a hot mess, and she hopped out of her double pike. It’s a promising routine and should be fun to watch in terms of her performance, but she loses SO much on things she should have under control at this point.

Last but not least is Ksenia Afanasyeva, who has been out of sorts due to kidney stones, and it really showed in her floor routine. I forgive her for the tumbling, because I can’t imagine wanting to get out of bed after kidney stones let alone doing elite-level gymnastics…she was heavily spotted especially on her double layout and double pike, both of which looked like they had no control.

She actually looked like she was taking a break before her last pass, so I can imagine how dead tired she must’ve been. The whip whip to triple was way too short as was the 2.5 to front layout, so hopefully she’s able to rest a bit before qualifications. Tumbling aside, the routine is just a mess, both with the choreo and the music…it actually makes me depressed because she is SO much more than this routine.

Evgeniya Shelgunova is there as the alternate, though I only saw her on vault in training. She did an FTY that looked…well, like they probably wouldn’t use it even if they had to.

No matter their issues, however, this team is immensely better than last year’s, meaning they are absolutely in the mix for a spot on the podium. Whatever issues they’re having, other nations at their level – ahem, Romania – are having issues of their own. Like Romania, they may not be super impressive in qualifications, but once they get to a three-up three-count format in finals, it’s all good.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

6 thoughts on “Impressions of the Russians in Training

  1. Oh God, don’t say that about Ksenia. She’s my version of Brenna Dowell for you! If it’s the same routine as she had at the Russian Cup, I completely agree, it’s ghastly. It’s probably too late for her to go back to the one from Euros, so we’ll just have to grin and bear it, but WHY DID THEY THINK THAT WAS OKAY?? Girl hasn’t even been to Worlds since 2011 (!!!) and of course she has to pick this moment to make herself some kidney stones and have a revolting floor routine. Damnit, Ksenia, I love you forever and ever whatever happens, but you really have the worst timing.

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    • Hahaha…I LOVE Ksenia. My second fave Russian, honestly. But DAMN that floor routine. WHY. If I were her I would’ve slapped whoever choreographed it and chose the music. It just doesn’t do her any justice at all…like, her 2012 routine is one of my all-time favorite routines in terms of artistry. This routine makes me weep with despair in comparison. So sad. I’m impressed with her putting up a fight despite her health issues but hope she gets to rest because her tumbling could very well be great if she’s healthy. I just hope they’re not pushing too much too soon.

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      • Ksenia is awesome and when she has a good routine, she can make it brilliant. But when she is the gymnast that you love more than any other, well, you basically have a permanent forehead-bruise from all the face-palming. WHY this routine? WHY that godawful thing she had at the end of 2014 with all the screaming Christina Aguilera bits? WHY does she sometimes just randomly leave the bars in the middle of a routine for no apparent reason? (Have you seen the bars routine she did at Worlds qualifications in 2010? It’s pretty epic. The best part is when she has so completely forgotten what she was supposed to be doing that she just starts doing kips, over and over.)

        Although, I guess you must face-palm quite a bit if you’re a Komova fan, too. Maybe it’s just part of the wonderful world of gymnastics (except for Simone Biles fans. Lucky people, she is permanently awesome and seems to not even be slightly insane around the edges).

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  2. Fingers crossed for team Russia. I think it’s safe to say that there are going to be individual medals in FX (Afan), UB (Komova, Paseka) and VT (Paseka), and there will most likely be a team bronze or silver depending on China and Romania and how many mistakes they make. Russia is known for not being quite so good in podium training, only to hit in quals and finals. Like the Russian team leaders said, this year’s worlds is about making Rio…point blank period.

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  3. I love Ksenia Afansayeva, I really do. But that floor routine. … woof.. I really hope she feels better come compitition time and at least trys to sell the hell out of it.. poor girl.

    On a positive note, maria Paseka looks the best I’ve ever seen her. Since when can she swing bars like a Russian? Her preflight on vault is still fugly but she’s improved a ton!

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